[VoxSpace Exclusive] Goddess : Chapter One Osha : The Forest Deity Who Controls Every Woman Of The World

Editor’s Note

Goddess. Divinity. Supernatural. Superhumans. Angels. Messiahs. The entities which drive our decisions, our destiny, have been called by many names. Since Neanderthal times, man has showcased this incredible fascination towards placing the belief of his existence upon something beyond him. A subconscious theory was adhered to, which spoke of an extraneous entity looking after our every step. Our awareness, our problems, and our solutions were all attributed to the whims of Gods. As evolution progressed, simple Heiloglyp0hs made way to intricate sculptures, which depicted Gods and Goddesses in different and age relevant forms. And as adversity hit humanity, most of these divine people were given shapes and stories, which exhibited courage in such adversity. The man started to worship what he feared. Mostly, because he couldn’t explain their occurrence. And science was too young to properly understand the equation.

Genetic mutations, extrasensory abilities, supernatural powers, caught the fancies of thousands of writers worldwide, which resulted in the creation of Folklore. Folklore, of course, became a part of our lives, and even though most of them had little bearing to actual and logical happenings, we accepted them. Because they provided a solution which was beyond our means. Chant a mantra, sacrifice an animal, pray to a Goddess, tie a band, walk on coal, were all measures of self-validation, that yes, there was someone looking after us. Ironically, we as humans attributed Gods with a similar image. And when the present Gods didn’t answer the prayers, it was the time to create some other. Hence, these local deities came into the picture.

They were created and celebrated by villages, on the belief that these deities, who were from that village itself, would easily understand her devotees and their problems. They were easier to approach. We started to research about these deities and their actual stories, along with Religious scholars, Ramachandra Naik and Subhangi Pillai. The stories try to reveal the actual occurrence of divinity, and may in the process shatter some folklore based truths about them. We respect the individual religious belief, and this article is merely to show how humanity has over the ages, possessed different means of making brave and courageous women turn into Goddesses.

Oshalampa Temple, Nallamalla Forest Region, Prakasham District, Andhra Pradesh

13-year-old Sirisha is a curious girl like anyone else. She slides across her seat, and looks out of the window of the SUV, excitedly trying to see if any wild animals would cross their path. Her father, Swami Sreekar Prasad, is driving the SUV through the Nallamalla forests, with a practised precision. He knows the route by heart, now after visiting the Oshalampa temple for the fourth time. He had first visited this temple with his father back in the 80’s. The deity residing in this temple, Osha Kumari, has always been utmost generous towards Prasad’s family. And therefore, every major occurring in their family had to be blessed and validated by the old lady within this temple. One they say has lived for 700 years.

For Sirisha this is the first trip to the temple. Her parents had earlier visited this temple when she was a newborn baby. They sought blessings for her, and Sirisha was told many a time, that the blessings had cured her of jaundice that struck her at infancy. Presently, though the Prasad’s are en-route to Osha Kumari, they are seeking a blessing for a different kind of happening. They wanted to have their daughter hit the puberty the next day, as it was auspicious. Having the very first period on a full moon day ensures that Sirisha would lead a rewarding and joyful life. And Osha Kumari was capable of doing so.

She could induce menstruation as and when her devotees desired to. And even stop them as per her wish and power. After all Osha Kumari was the Goddess of Female Making. It is believed that over the past 700 years, she has connected to every single woman in the world, either physically or soulfully. She can understand, each and every female body, as if they are her own. Osha Kumari can control her body, because of centuries of penance, and as a result control every other female body too, as she speaks through them. A unifying entity of all women is what is Osha Kumari.

Swami Sreekar Prasad finally arrives at a small dwelling. A stream veins across the rocky forest path ahead. Obviously, it is no path for vehicles, and so Prasad parks his SUV, alongside other vehicles at this dwelling, consisting of three huts, each one of them housing a guard.  The tradition is simple, the devotees need to trek up the path from this point, which is locally called as Kolanu Thanda. They need to park their vehicles, hand over the vehicle keys to one of the guards, pay them a hundred rupees, but more importantly, hand over all the jewellery and underpants.

All the devotees need to deposit their pants or lower wear, to the guards in a bag. Only in the late 90’s did Osha Kumari allow the devotees to come to visit her in underwear. Before that, the devotees were only supposed to visit her sanctum butt naked.  Man, Woman and Child visiting her sanctum, with nothing to cover their lower body parts, became a topic of public outrage when a National Geographic documentary filmmaker showed the tradition to the world. Since then a much-needed change has been in included in the routine.

The Long Trek To Meet The Goddess Of Nature

And so, Swami Sreekar Prasad and his family remove their pants, and in mere underwear’s, start their walk uphill.  The pebble laded path, is a tough one to trek, because of its slippery slope, and many devotees have suffered serious injuries in their journey. Hence, long staffs are made available on a need basis, and the Prasad’s utilize them to walk up the hill. The temple is 4 kilometres away from the Kolanu Thanda, and the family does make it to the top before the sunset. As soon as they reach, Swami Sreekar Prasad walks briskly to a small hut where Osha Kumari’s prime devotee resides. An Aghori Baba by name Jakkuna Swami. Any request for an audience and the purpose of the visit has to be conveyed to the Goddess Osha Kumari via Jakkuna Swami.

Like the Prasad’s there are other families, on the hill, waiting to seek blessings from the Goddess. There are marked waiting areas and haystack huts which provide devotees shelter, water and fruits. And another hut, purely installed for collecting contributions from the devotees, given out purely voluntarily. The Prasad’s get an appointment for the visitation the next night, ie almost 24 hours later. And so they borrow a few mats from the nearby Huts and sleep under the purple skies. Tomorrow Sirisha would become something more. She would be reborn, as they say, as a woman. The pain would kill her. But in life to come, only that will be the pain she’s ever feeling. She will come out stronger than ever.

1250 AD – Folklore Associated With Goddess Osha Kumari  

As with most Deities, we have today all over the country, the gravitas of their existence is based on a folklore which is laced with tragic consequences, and more importantly sacrifices. So the legend of Osha Kumari goes like this-

In 1250 AD, the great Cholan empire faced its first imminent downfall. The heir apparent of the Chola dynasty, Rajendra Chola, The Third, faced a horrible defeat in the hands of Kopperichunga, a feudal warlord of the tribe Kadava, based out of today’s Nellore region. Rajendra Chola on his expedition to the Cholan empire belt, spreading from Kanyakumari to Dundigal, passed through the dangerous forests of Nallamalla.

Kopperichunga, who was a chieftain in this region disallowed the convoy to pass through their regions as the convoy would trample the peace-loving community they had built on the foothills. Rajendra Chola found the reason a bit too lame to stop his convoy and proceeded to pass through the villages.

It was later understood that the wife of Kopperichunga, Himakilopa Kumarin, was expecting a child, and as per the long-standing rule persisting at that time, any child born during the Emperor’s visit would automatically belong to the Emperor. And so in those auspicious moments, Osha Kumari was born. The Emperor came to know about this and ordered his army to bring the child to him. However, a terrible battle ensued between the Emperor’s convoy and the Tribe of Nallamalla. After 40 days of the war, Kopperichunga won the battle and held the great Rajendra Chola as a hostage.

1255 AD – The Cholan Emperor Comes Up With A Terrible Escape Plan

Months turned to years, and the once great Emperor was held captive in a hut. It so happened that after 5 years which passed in captivity, Rajendra Chola found himself physically attracted to a little girl who would be kind enough to play marbles with her friends outside his prison hut. The little girl was Osha Kumari. As fate would have it, an avalanche broke loose on the hilltop right in the middle of the rainy season. All the huts were evacuated, and the occupants were brought down the hill.

The Emperor Rajendra Chola was tied up to a tree near the river stream, while the others built themselves temporary shelters out of dry wood, barks and leaves. In this time of shelter, during the night, The Emperor got hold off some marbles which the children had left behind during their play. The next day, he signalled Osha Kumari to come about and collect her marbles. When she entered the radius of the rope he was tied to, he latched onto her and covered her mouth.

He then raped the five-year-old girl, repeatedly, until she passed out. Everything was over in an hour, and by the time the other children realized that Osha was missing, and the men of the tribe returned from their hunts, and the women walked out of their huts, everything was done. The Chieftain found Osha lying a few feet away from the tied up Emperor, with her clothes torn midway through.

It didn’t take much time to realize that she was violated. In a fit of anger, the Chieftain Kopperichunga drew his sword to cut off the Emperor’s head. But just as he was about to do so, the wise men of the tribe stopped him, saying that he couldn’t kill the husband of her daughter now. For better or for worse, The Emperor was his daughter’s husband now, under the law of nature. And so, he had to be dealt with respect.

The next day, under the law of nature, the Emperor was untied from his bonds and married to the five-year-old Osha Kumari. Later when the Emperor was released and Osha Kumari was being sent away, a witch from the tribe walked up to the five-year-old girl. She whispered a chant, which held the power to control the biological cycles of womanhood. The witch asked Osha Kumari to repeat it under her breath for 90 days continuously until the chant was something of her subconscious engraving. And so the child did, as she left with the Emperor.

1265 AD – The Troubled Girl Becomes The Queen Of Cholan Empire

After 10 years, the Queen Osha Kumari still remained a virgin. The lore tells us that, she inevitably delayed her biological maturity, because of the chant. She could control her pain, her anger, her metabolism and every other aspect of her body. It is believed that after the Emperor raped and tortured her domestically, she would feel no pain. He failed to impregnate her. She was then sentenced to death by hanging, but she could remain without breath for days together, and when released from the noose, still be breathing normally.

The troubles of the Chola empire had only started. After 1265, all the pregnant women in the kingdom, one by one, felt their stomachs loosen up and their fetuses sucked out of their wombs in the middle of the night. Most women woke up to find their beds, soaked in blood, and lumps of flesh rolled up and dripping out.

The word spread all through the Kingdom, that the new queen Osha Kumari had the whole kingdom under a curse. No one could conceive. Even if they did, abortions happened. The Emperor realized his mistake, and therefore, begged Osha Kumari to forgive him. The fifteen-year-old Osha Kumari only asked to return to her kingdom, and in return promised to make the land and the women fertile again. And as she returned, and as the women conceived again, she took to the hills of Thanda, and started living there in recluse. Her family was long dead by the time she arrived, and she vowed never to touch any other human again. From that day to today, she remains in that hut on the hilltop, only blessing women to control their anatomical structure.

Present Day – The Blessings Of A Goddess And The Austerity Of Purpose

Sirisha’s turn comes with the sunset the next day. The tradition asks only the devotee to enter the sanctum hut, accompanied only by the Aghori Jakkuna Swami. No one else is allowed, not even the parents. Sirisha is still wearing only an underwear to cover her bottom, as she is guided through a path beyond the initial dwelling of her parents. The Aghori never touches her, but signals her sternly to follow him swiftly. She can’t make the whole world wait. Now the path leads, to a simple looking hut, which looks different only because of the yellow haystack roof. There is a long granite block in front of the opening of the hut. The Aghori signals the child to sit there cross-legged, as he lights up a small torch at a holster in the front of the hut.

The little girl, with showing thighs, sits bravely on the burning graphite floor. A sharp pain stuns her for a moment, but she sits nevertheless. After the Aghori confirms that Sirisha is sitting properly, screams loudly and abruptly starts running. He runs around the hut, holding his staff across his shoulders, barefoot, and over the pebbles and rocks, he runs and runs. The custom is that, until the prayer and the routine get completed, Jakkuna Swami runs burdening himself with all the sins of his fellow manhood. As the screams from the Aghori start to escalate, a faint figure of a woman who is stark naked appears at the opening of the hut. Her long white dense hair touched almost her ankles, as she extends her arm, which is wrinkled beyond recognition.

Meeting With The Goddess Of Womanhood And Of Nature

She takes a step outside, her nails longer than any woman the child has ever seen. The Goddess’ knees are knocked to a curve, and she can take only two steps at a time. Her hair, thick and blurry white, tends to grip onto her legs, as her naked body faintly glimmers in the light from the torch. The skin is deep brown, as though she has been made of mud. The living Goddess of the forest looks nothing like one.

The frail old lady, kneels before the child, her loosely hanging breasts, touching the child’s hair as she sits down. Her pupils are white and reflect back no life. The Aghori starts loudly chanting, and the Goddess listens intently to the chants. Osha Kumari places her hand on the child’s thigh, and her nails start boring down her skin. She is careful not to hurt her, as she grips on to the underwear and inserts her hand into it and closes her eyes. The little girl is stunned beyond her knowledge, as the old Goddess inserts one of her fingers into her.

And then the old Goddess starts crying and wailing, as the Aghori goes frantic as he continues running. After a minute, she removes her hand, and as she puts the hand to the girl’s forehead, the girl feels a strange tinge over the body. The Goddess rubs the forehead of the girl with the blood she drew from the child. And stands up to go back. But before she does, she stoops down and takes a fistful of mud in her hand. Before she leaves, she pours the mud over the girl child. The Goddess rescinds to her sanctum as the flickering torch stands a silent witness. The girl realizes that her thighs are moistened. That blood is dripping out onto her underwear from nowhere. The Aghori stops. The ritual is complete. Auspiciously, the girl is a woman from now on.

The Technical Understanding Of What Could’ve Happened – Talks With Subhangi Pillai

“…It is unnatural for someone to induce menstruation in any other woman. Is it impossible? Well technically no. You see, when we talk about emmenagogues or as they are also called abortifacients, these are certain herbs which have been known to induce menstruation and effect the periodic cycle in women. The emmenagogues herbs have been prevalently used in regions like Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, somewhere in between 800 to 900 A.D. The logic was simple. It was believed that, the bigger the army, the powerful the empire and the emperor. So what do you need to make a large army, you need more number of natural childbirths. Although, there was no birth restriction in these areas, and in that time, what was specifically there was the loss of Women in childbirth”.

“The ways of delivery were outright crude at that point in time, and more often than not, the delivery would result in huge blood loss and death. Although thousands of women gave birth to more than half a dozen children in their lifespan of 30 to 40 years, this wasn’t enough. The armies were being lost at a rate which was faster than they were making it. It is in these circumstances, that herbal scientists of the time, found out the medicinal value of Emmenagogues herbs.

Found on the ocean banks, and amongst different plankton, the herbs were put to use, on little girls, to have them ready to conceive. As per our study on Anthropological Evolution of Simhala Tribe, we see that at one point in the history, the average age of motherhood was as low as 10 years old. Such was the need and atrocity inflicted by the kings of that time”.

Osha Kumari seems to be doing some physical manipulation from what we understand from the statements of her devotees to both induce and reduce menstruation frequency and occurrence. How can we explain that?

“As we see, the Goddess of the forest has found some way in making these emmenagogues, to form a sort of powder. From what we understand from different accounts of devotees and the National Geographic video, we can construct that she rubs the herbs onto the vaginal parts of her devotees to induce a menstrual cycle. Yes, the potency is something that these people have heightened to make the herb work effectively and immediately”.

“…As this is one part of it, the other part is, reducing the frequency of menstrual cycle or stopping it altogether. To be honest, we are yet to find out how the Goddess does that. It is obvious that if there is something which can stimulate blood in the pelvic region, there must be a herb that we don’t know yet, which can perhaps restrict it. Ayurveda is a deep ocean of knowledge, and these tribes are the masters of the herbs in their hands”

Ma’am, do you feel that Osha Kumari is a Goddess in its true worth. Basing on the folklore that we already have, and her legacies, which claim her to be immortal. How do we deny the play of something supernatural here, if we were to believe her backstory?

“Gods Sir, that what they are. Incredible stories which take great fiction and mix them with realistic voyeurism. Take any God’s story, it is laced with supernatural elements you know. And Goddesses are always meant to be more than both the men and the women. Hence the flight of imagination is a bit higher here. Now to look at the facts, the Cholan empire married Osha Kumari, is based on a strategic alliance between the warring families. It is a well-known fact that Osha Kumari in her marriage of ten years, could not conceive a child with the Emperor. Now, the King banished her as she stood the accusation of impotence. Imagine coming back to her kingdom, with such a terrible reason on her back. It is at this point, we scholars believe that the tribe chieftain and his family, created a fiction of her prowess”

“..Eventually they did find the emmenagogues which could do the trick and further validated the powers of the newly anointed Goddess. All said and done, we can at this point, only theorize as to what could’ve happened. We still cannot explain a hundred other questions of the Forest Goddess. As far as humanity is concerned, she is someone extraordinary, and sometimes that is all we want.”

“Sometimes stories make our reality seem a little less tragic. Sometimes having faith in someone, and having our faith rewarded is all that we want. The Goddess Osha Kumari in that respect commands a huge horde of believers who continue to grow day by day. It only means that she is doing something which is beyond what the present day science, technology and medicine, is failing to do”.


Our discussion on six other Goddess will continue next week, as we introduce you to a divine power who is believed to take the forms of different animals at different parts of the year. Till then let the Divinity in us burn brighter than ever.

{A Call To Help – Be Our Goddesses}

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